Planning the fall activity schedule

Yesterday, my 7-year-old tried out for, and made, a competitive swim team around here. It’s the same one the 10-year-old is on. After he was in, and I learned which group he’d be assigned to (and hence the practice times) I had the necessary information for creating our fall activity schedule.

This can be quite a puzzle. I know in recent years it’s become fashionable to complain about children being “over scheduled” — whatever that means — but the reality of a larger family is that the family as a whole can have a lot of activities without any individual child having that much. I also tend to think that supporting a child’s interests is a good thing, and activities can allow for a different sort of challenge than a child might get in school (even though our school is helpful here — the only reason my 10-year-old plays the viola is because the school gave him lessons). We probably, to an average observer’s eyes, have a lot going on, and since the kids are in school until 3:35, there are only so many hours to fit stuff in before bedtime. But I’m pretty happy with the schedule I’ve created. My principles:

Spreadsheets are my friend. Yes, I used the “s” word… My 168 hours log turns out to be perfect for visualizing when kids need to be various places in the afternoon (or morning, for pre-school activities, and Saturday stuff). You can get one using this link.

Think through all the constituent parts. The good news is that things like 5-year-old gymnastics are offered multiple times per week. My kids also each have six karate options per week, and there are 3-4 swim times, of which they need to be there 2-3 times. My 10-year-old is auditioning for a musical, and there are 4 casts, so I will be able to express a preference for which one he’s in. I sat down with all the schedules, which means I now actually know which casts will and won’t work for us.

Remember kid energy levels. It’s really hard to do two activities on any given day. Two (or three) kids can have one activity apiece, but trying to bring a kid to karate after swim is just asking for trouble.

Leave an open day. I am purposefully leaving Wednesday activity-free after school. I think it will be a nice breather during the week. There’s also the plus that if we do miss activities other days for some reason, we have that as a back-up. Of course to do that, we had to put Saturdays in play. However, they will be doable because of the next principle.

Stack on weekends. We are going to have Saturday AM activities, but everyone will be done by 10:45 a.m. That leaves the rest of the weekend open for family activities, or the inevitable birthday parties and the like (and just general relaxing).

Protect my work time. As the parent who works from home, I’ll wind up doing a fair chunk of the kid shuttling (our nanny will do the rest). But looking at how I’ve arranged the schedule, I see that I should be able to work through to 6 p.m. (or later) at least two days during the week, and if need be, I can get to 5:20 p.m. on two others. So that is not bad, especially since I can use some of the later evening to get to more if I need to. If I’m traveling a day that requires a second driver, we can either skip one of the activities that night (and push it to Wednesday that week!) or get a second sitter or carpool.

Be flexible. It’s possible some of this won’t work out as well as it looks on paper. That’s OK. Now that I know the lay of the land, I know we can move things around if we need to.

How is the fall schedule shaping up for you?

16 thoughts on “Planning the fall activity schedule

  1. I am envious that you have all the schedules you need. I am in the position of needing to schedule one activity before I have the schedule for another one. My 10 yo is playing travel soccer for the first time this year. There are two practices during the week and a game on Saturdays. My same son wants to continue tennis lessons with a friend and needs to fit in a weekly reading tutor and a weekly therapy appointment. All that is fine (an could even leave a free afternoon if properly planned) but the travel soccer team apparently won’t put out a practice schedule until the first week of September!!! and the tennis lessons have to be scheduled by 8/31. I know if will all work out, but around this time in August I am always stressed trying to figure out HOW!

    Other than these frustrations we are in pretty good shape. My daughter has violin twice per week and will enroll in a school sponsored after school activity (no enrollment needed until mid September).
    And we started hosting a private Super Soccer Stars group (soccer for the pre-k set) in our front yard. We get a discount and and the 18-month-old can nap even if there is only 1 driver at home.

    1. @Gillian- wow, that’s almost sadistic to withhold the schedule until September! Then again, there are a few “at school” activities that we won’t know for sure what afternoon they are until we get back to school after Labor Day. I’m assuming on one thing (and built the schedule around it) so if I’m wrong…hmm…

    2. Our piano teacher is not resuming lessons until September. This is creating a mess for us because most other activities start in August.

    3. We run into some of the same problems, and soccer seems to be particularly bad. There’s a start-of-season tournament in a city 2 hours away in 2 weekends, and i have no information on how many games they will play (not even a range), whether they’re guaranteed games both days (or not), or the times of the games. On a positive note, I do know the location of the fields, which has at times been an issue in the past with away tourneys (annoying if one wants to make lodging arrangements, not a huge issue this time though once we know game times, we may). And our practice schedule, at least, is set, but we have no game schedule though those start the first weekend of September — not even which day of the week. We’re a one-kid, two-parent household so this isn’t a big deal, but I do wonder how other families manage.

      1. Apparently the soccer issue is related to getting permits for field time. This makes me wonder, do not both the soccer association and the city anticipate this anticipate their annual needs. Travel soccer is hardly a new concept! We are are 4 kid household with two parents and lots of help. We are currently saved by the fact that really only two kids have activities, but this is going to change over the next few years…the joys of having a largish family!

  2. Ha-I was just figuring fall activities out this afternoon. Both my 4yo and 7yo said they would like to do soccer in the fall. We were very strategic in that we tried to find a program that had practices for 4 year olds at the same time and same field (that we can walk to) as practices for a 7 yo, so we could put both kids in soccer and minimize running around time for us. (We do this for art classes at the art museum as well–the museum offers a younger kids program at the same time as an older kids program).

    We debated about putting my 7 yo in another soccer program that had two weeknight practices and one weekend game at a field further away. We think he would enjoy it and get something out of it. But with three kids and our work schedules we decided to forego it. We figured if he is still into soccer he can do that kind of intensity when he’s 8. No need to rush it. We also decided no baby gym glasses for our 1.5 yo. Funny, I had my first in music classes and gym classes from 6 weeks on. My third baby probably won’t get a class/activity until she learns to ask for it. 🙂

    1. We do the same thing with our 4 and 7 year olds! I am all for anything that involves ONE dropoff for the both of them. (Super excited that they are in the same preK-8 school right now!)

      I also limited all the baby activities for kid #2 and even now she’s got no activities because she generally refuses to participate. When she’s ready to participate, I figure she’ll ask 🙂

  3. My principles are a little different in that a I protect Saturdays. However, this is beginning to not be an option due to high school band competitions. (I think the school forgets that most 9th graders can’t drive!) I’m paying for an after school nanny and I shamelessly put most of the kid activities on the days she comes. She says its the easiest money she has ever made. She calls herself the “Kid Taxi.”

  4. Similarly dealing with mystery schedules for the moment. Neither kid’s soccer practice schedule has been released, and we don’t get after-school chess and karate schedules until school starts in late August. Signed one kiddo up for piano on Tuesdays with the hope that it doesn’t interfere with anything else.

    Does anyone else have strong anti-travel-sport sentiment? Unless the kid is absolutely brilliant at the sport (not just somewhat talented, but clearly outstanding), I don’t think it’s fair to throw the whole family schedule into chaos for a travel sport. The parents who do travel soccer around here seem so resigned to giving up weekends with a shoulder shrug and a defeated sigh. No thank you!

    1. @Kathleen – with the travel sport thing, I think it’s important to recognize it’s a choice. A parent can choose to do it or not do it. Of course, given that this doesn’t seem to be something our family will ever face, I suppose that’s easy for me to say!

    2. We have been strongly anti-travel sport! However this year my 10 yo who has struggled socially, really wanted to participate in travel soccer. He begged, he pleaded. So we gave in, and I will tell you after a touch school year last year, when he found out he made the travel team he was beaming with pride! I just have to remind myself of the face as I drive all over Westchester county this fall.

      1. @Gillian – sounds like a good reason to do it, and maybe share some of the weekend driving with sitters or fellow team members’ families. I am fully in favor of supporting kids’ passions. When the kid is really pushing for something, it’s not pushy parenting 🙂

        If the kid doesn’t care, that is a different matter. Then there are very few activities that would really rise to the level of family priority (I could see religious instruction, or maybe instruction in a language extended family members speak. Other than that, not much).

  5. We just moved to California 2 weeks ago (!), in time for their ridiculously early school start, which was last Wed. Since it’s a new house/new school/new schedule, we only signed the girls up for one 45 minute swim lesson on Saturday mornings, which thankfully is at the same time for both.

    We just found out that the 2nd grader will never have homework (?!) so we have a bit of extra time to play with. I will likely schedule in her twice weekly Skype Spanish classes with a school in Nicaragua (no driving!) and hubby wants to convince her to play basketball or soccer, super low-key.

    The 4.5 yo expressed an interest in soccer, so we might try it (again) to see if she’ll cooperate.

    I have a couple of rules to keep the craziness at bay – nothing on Sundays at all, not even birthday parties unless it’s a close friend or relative. Also, most classes/whatnot are within a 15 minute drive.

    I am super jealous of Laura’s multiple-time-option activities. Everything I’ve looked at for the girls are for very specific times.

    1. @ARC – that’s good to take it easy for a semester at least – and then you’ll have the lay of the land and know what’s high quality and maybe worth signing up for. And I LOVE the idea of Skype language lessons. Anytime you can have no driving it’s awesome!

      1. Yeah, we’ve been doing the Skype lessons for about a year, and it’s worked out pretty well, barring technical issues on either side (which happens). 30 min twice a week, which is short enough to maintain her interest, and because it’s run in Nicaragua by a non-profit, the rate is really good. Plus the cost goes to running a local school there, which I think is super cool.

  6. This fall I’m trying something different. We are not putting our 3 yr old in morning preschooler or our 7 yr old in Little League baseball, and I’m not going back to my MOPS group. These are three activities we did last school year and thoroughly enjoyed. But with the addition of a 4th child I was feeling thoroughly overwhelmed by the end of the school year so we are intentionally scaling back for now. I’m hoping to have plenty of time to enjoy the fall weather and help the boys do their homework and adjust to their new grades and classes.

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